Where did China go?
The full amounts of Chinese buying of corn and soybeans, as rumoured in the market, have not been confirmed by the US Department of Agriculture.
"There has been talk that the Chinese had booked more corn and soybeans, but no announcements have been seen this morning, only ideas that on the overnight break a Chinese crusher was in buying," Darren Dohme at Powerline Group said.
The lack of confirmation ensured what GrainAnalyst trader Matthew Pierce called "one of the more sluggish sessions in recent memory" in Chicago ended on a softish note for the duo.
"Buying is primarily still focused on ideas that China purchased a significant amount of corn and soybeans last week from the US," Darrell Holaday at Country Futures said.
"Failure to get some corn confirmation this week would be negative."
Nor was this the only reason for sellers to gain some traction, with harvest ongoing too, raising crop supplies and so weighing on prices.
"The selling pressure is being generated by continued harvest pressure which should be winding down by the end of the week," Mr Holaday said.
US Commodities put it that "the seasonal hedge pressure is helping to cap overnight rallies".
USDA data later on Monday are expected to show the soybean harvest 70-75% finished, and corn harvest 40-45% completed.
Then there were the Informa Economics 2012 US sowings estimates, from Friday, but which Benson Quinn Commodities said "the trade this morning is talking about", showing a hike to 77.0m acres in the forecast for soybean plantings.
Benson Quinn added: "If acreage estimates are realised a larger soybean crop could be bearish especially if no production issues arise in South America," which is currently sowing its 2011-12 crop of the oilseed.
External markets were hardly helpful either, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average
A stronger greenback makes dollar-denominated assets such as many commodities less affordable to foreign buyers. And, indeed, the CRB commodities index dropped 0.8%, with Brent
This barrage of bearish news neutralised some of the more bullish snippets around, such as the idea that buying activity isn't too far away, especially when, as US Commodities noted, "China's purchases of corn Tuesday night has put psychological support at $6.00 bushel on December corn.
"End users will believe this is value until a new fundamental scenario arises."
Mr Holaday said: "There is still good buying on any price breaks in the corn. Primarily because virtually all of the end users in the corn sector are making money."
And insurance payout levels suggested limits to the idea of harvest pressure, set [in February] at $6.01 a bushel for December corn and $13.49 a bushel for November soybeans.
"The cash prices on soybeans are below the insurance rate which is halting selling for now. Corn is above the insurance rate so selling is a bit more aggressive," US Commodities said.
There were some doubts about South American weather too, with decent rains needed for crop sowings to establish.
In the next 10 days, central and north eastern Brazil "will continue to see much-above-normal rainfall, with Bahia and Goais seeing 200-400% above normal over the next seven days", weather service WxRisk.com said.
"However, all of south western and south eastern Brazil as well as north east Argentina and Paraguay will see rainfall amounts under 25% of normal."
Chicago corn for December ended up 0.5 cents at $6.40 ½ a bushel, while soybeans shed 1.4% to $12.53 a bushel for November, their first losing day in five.
With corn up, fellow grain
However, dry weather which has reduced winter grain sowing prospects in the Ukraine and the US southern Plains, coupled with ideas that Ukraine may keep some vestige of corn and wheat export tariffs rather than do away with them completely, supported prices.
As did the unusual discount of Chicago wheat to corn.
Wheat closed the gap, but not by much, closing up 1.5 cents at $6.24 ¼ a bushel.
Still that was better than most soft commodities managed, fading in line with the broader market retreat, attributed to concerns that the eurozone crisis may not be so easy to fix after all.
Ditto too for
"Cotton looks locked in a range," trader Jurgens Bauer said.